People are treating their mobile devices, iPhones, Androids, and tablets, more like personal computers than ever before. For the first time, smartphone sales exceeded personal computer sales in the fourth quarter of last year. This shift toward smartphones will accelerate over the next decade, and there are several trends that are driving smartphones ever-faster into the future.
Smartphones are no longer being treated as stand-alone devices. Many enterprises are integrating mobile devices, through backend systems, and allowing data to flow back and forth between multiple devices. This effectively makes multiple devices act as one personal computer. With the addition of cloud technology, employee mobility has never been easier. No longer is there a need to take laptops on the road or have access to a home computer, a tablet or a smartphone that has access to the cloud is all that’s needed.
An upgrade in Wi-Fi technology may soon be on the horizon, further enhancing mobile connectivity. At Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, a Wi-Fi technology called Wi-Max has been deployed into the neighborhoods near the university. It provides high-speed access to the Internet throughout the campus and nearby, without a required log-in. One of these Wi-Max networks is tripling the average data speed and is transmitting wirelessly at speeds of 6Mbps; which is better than most current wired internet connections. Wi-Max (or LP) may soon be the network of choice because it has the ability to provide a wider bandwidth than Wi-Fi. As the preference for mobile continues to grow, so will the expectations of users. They will want to have audio, live-streaming, and VOIP technology, all from their handheld, and that will require a network that can move the maximum amount of data.
One challenge with this mobile movement is finding the ideal spectrum for all these different technologies. There may be increased wait periods for changing from one protocol or one technology to the next, because the FCC needs time to ensure everyone is offered spectrum while simultaneously avoiding interference. But this challenge with the FCC is nothing new, and it is a safe bet that the ability to send more data into available spectrum will be developed.
Another interesting trend is that smartphone interfaces and hardware will continue to become more intuitive. With many smart phones and tablets, the screen and touchscreen have become prime real estate. To increase space, leaders in the mobile industry are aggressively exploring voice recognition. Smartphones will also get more powerful. It is reasonable to expect that they will continue to increase in both memory and speed: from single core to dual core, and higher RAM.
There is a lot of attention being paid to power supply and consumption (batteries) and the trend will continue toward exotic materials and new power storage technologies as we seek alternatives to our current charging devices. Mobility is dependent on power. All the functionality and connectivity advancements become meaningless if a device is always running out of power. The iPhone has been battling this problem for the past few years. Technological innovation in this area will include wireless charging, solar, and perhaps even motion powered charging capabilities.
We have seen laptops replace the home PC, and now smart phones are replacing them both. Science fiction writer, William Gibson, said, “the future is already here…” and in the realm of personal computing, the future is here: it’s called the smartphone.